Social media is a great platform that consumers can use to interact with brands they enjoy, and most of the time comments are positive. However, 35% of customers in the U.S. post negative comments about companies on social media, which is why brands need to be prepared for handling negative feedback in an appropriate and timely manner.
While it may seem easier to ignore negative comments, one of the biggest “don’ts” of social media is not responding to questions, comments and messages from followers. Since there are many grey areas when it comes to social media responses, having a plan in place—along with a few examples of how other companies have successfully handled difficult social conversations—can help make it a less daunting task.
Here are five tips for responding to negative feedback on social media:
1. Respond Quickly with Helpful Information
When it comes to social media, followers expect responses almost immediately. According to Sprout Social, 40% of consumers expect brands to respond within the first hour of reaching out on social media, and 79% of users expect a response within 24 hours.
For this reason, a good rule of thumb is that when your brand receives a negative social media comment, be prepared to respond that same day. However, make sure your response is thoughtful and beneficial. If your response doesn’t improve the issue or address the customer’s complaint, then it may only escalate the situation.
If more time is required by your team to do some additional research and draft a suitable response, it’s best to at least provide a brief response that acknowledges you are looking into the situation and will follow up shortly.
2. Move Complicated Conversations to a More Private Channels
If your company receives a detailed and specific customer complaint on social media, it’s likely going to require a more in-depth conversation. In this case, it’s best to respond and request that the conversation is moved to a different platform. Some alternatives could be personal or direct messages, the customer service line or via email.
When this is necessary, be sure to respond and publicly address that the conversation is being moved instead of ignoring the comment. If bystanders can’t see that you are handling the customer’s complaint, they might add fuel to the fire by commenting that you are not responsive and don’t care about your customers, or by simply finding a reason to leave yet another a negative comment about the service or product to feel like they are part of the complaint train.
Xbox does a great job when it comes to moving conversations along. The Xbox Support Twitter account publicly responds to customer issues and redirects them to receive a private message. Additionally, Xbox has a standard message it uses, which limits room for errors and unnecessary stress from the social media team when trying to respond to every single comment or message.
3. Remember to Be Human
At the end of the day, social media is a platform that’s designed for human interaction. It allows people to build meaningful relationships, similar to in-person conversations. This principle holds true when a negative comment arises. Be sure to respond in a personal manner and, if needed, be honest when explaining the situation.
It goes without saying that, as humans, we are all highly imperfect and do make mistakes every once in a while. Adding this human element and forming a relationship with the customer will make it easier for them to understand that you are doing everything you can to resolve the current issue. Plus, it’s likely that they will be more genuine and understanding once realizing they are talking with a real person with emotions, instead of a bot.
For example, Nike uses a conversational but sincere tone, along with “we/us” references, to represent that there’s a team of real people working behind their account. When responses are sincere and transparent, people generally respond in a more positive and understanding way.
4. Monitor All Comments
This may seem obvious to most, but staying on top of all comments and interactions coming in through your social channels can limit the chaos if a negative comment does appear. Your team will be prepared to handle the complaint or issue in a timely manner and will be aware if any other comments are building onto the conversation stream.
To streamline this process, Hubspot Social Media Management Software, Sprout Social and Hootsuite are just some of the social listening tools available. If you aren’t already utilizing a software tool to help improve social media monitoring, now is a great time to invest in one moving forward.
It’s also important to track if any customers are repeat offenders, which might warrant a different approach. If someone appears to be intentionally trolling your account, it may be time to block or report them.
5. Create a Standard Policy & Procedure
For consistency across the board, and just for some general social media housekeeping, it’s best to create several social media documents—including a social media style guide, social media guidelines and a social media policy. Not only will they provide guidance on how to handle difficult comments, but these documents will also help keep the team accountable and limit the chances that inappropriate responses go public.
Some companies even include templated responses for common social media issues and responses, such as answers to FAQs, a simple message for moving the conversation to a different platform, or letting people know that you are looking into their comment and will respond back within 24-48 hours.
Social media is a great way to resolve issues and meet customers’ needs, but remember that these conversations are extremely accessible to the public. Being prepared to handle negative comments is part of your role as a social media team member or content creator. If your team can plan ahead, it will significantly improve response time, limit errors, minimize collateral damage and even help spin customers’ negative experiences into positive ones.
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